496 U.S. 325 (1990), 89-789, Alabama v. White

Docket Nº:No. 89-789
Citation:496 U.S. 325, 110 S.Ct. 2412, 110 L.Ed.2d 301, 58 U.S.L.W. 4747
Party Name:Alabama v. White
Case Date:June 11, 1990
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 325

496 U.S. 325 (1990)

110 S.Ct. 2412, 110 L.Ed.2d 301, 58 U.S.L.W. 4747

Alabama

v.

White

No. 89-789

United States Supreme Court

June 11, 1990

Argued April 17, 1990

CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS OF

ALABAMA

Syllabus

Police received an anonymous telephone tip that respondent White would be leaving a particular apartment at a particular time in a particular vehicle, that she would be going to a particular motel, and that she would be in possession of cocaine. They immediately proceeded to the apartment building, saw a vehicle matching the caller's description, observed White as she left the building and entered the vehicle, and followed her along the most direct route to the motel, stopping her vehicle just short of the motel. A consensual search of the vehicle revealed marijuana and, after White was arrested, cocaine was found in her purse. The Court of Criminal Appeals of Alabama reversed her conviction on possession charges, holding that the trial court should have suppressed the marijuana and cocaine because the officers did not have the reasonable suspicion necessary under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, to justify the investigatory stop of the vehicle.

Held: The anonymous tip, as corroborated by independent police work, exhibited sufficient indicia of reliability to provide reasonable suspicion to make the investigatory stop. Pp. 328-332.

(a) Under Adams v. Williams, 407 U.S. 143, 147, an informant's tip may carry sufficient "indicia of reliability" to justify a Terry stop even though it may be insufficient to support an arrest or search warrant. Moreover, Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 230, adopted a "totality of the circumstances" approach to determining whether an informant's tip establishes probable cause, whereby the informant's veracity, reliability, and basis of knowledge are highly relevant. These factors are also relevant in [110 S.Ct. 2414] the reasonable suspicion context, although allowance must be made in applying them for the lesser showing required to meet that standard. Pp. 328-329.

(b) Standing alone, the tip here is completely lacking in the necessary indicia of reliability, since it provides virtually nothing from which one might conclude that the caller is honest or his information reliable, and gives no indication of the basis for his predictions regarding White's criminal activities. See Gates, supra, at 227. However, although it is a close question, the totality of the circumstances demonstrates that significant aspects of the informant's story were sufficiently corroborated by the police to furnish reasonable suspicion. Although not every detail

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mentioned by the tipster was verified -- e.g., the name of the woman leaving the apartment building or the precise apartment from which she left -- the officers did corroborate that a woman left the building and got into the described vehicle. Given the facts that they proceeded to the building immediately after the call, and that White emerged not too long thereafter, it also appears that her departure was within the timeframe predicted by the caller. Moreover, since her four-mile route was the most direct way to the motel, but nevertheless involved several turns, the caller's prediction of her destination was significantly corroborated, even though she was stopped before she reached the motel. Furthermore, the fact that the caller was able to predict her future behavior demonstrates a special familiarity with her affairs. Thus there was reason to believe that the caller was honest and well informed, and to impart some degree of reliability to his allegation that White was engaged in criminal activity. See id. at 244, 245. Pp. 329-332.

550 So.2d 1074 (Ala.Cr.App.1989), reversed and remanded.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and BLACKMUN, O'CONNOR, SCALIA, and KENNEDY, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which BRENNAN and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 333.

WHITE, J., lead opinion

Justice WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

Based on an anonymous telephone tip, police stopped respondent's vehicle. A consensual search of the car revealed drugs. The issue is whether the tip, as corroborated by independent

Page 327

police work, exhibited sufficient indicia of reliability to provide reasonable suspicion to make the investigatory stop. We hold that it did.

On April 22, 1987, at approximately 3 p.m., Corporal B.H. Davis of the Montgomery Police Department received a telephone call from an anonymous person stating that Vanessa White would be leaving 235-C Lynwood Terrace Apartments at a particular time in a brown Plymouth station wagon with the right taillight lens broken, that she would be going to Dobey's Motel, and that she would be in possession of about an ounce of cocaine inside a brown attache case. Corporal Davis and his partner, Corporal P. A. Reynolds, proceeded to the Lynwood Terrace Apartments. The officers saw a brown Plymouth station wagon with a broken right taillight in the parking lot in front of the 235 building. The officers observed respondent leave the 235 building, carrying nothing in her hands, and enter the station wagon. They followed the vehicle as it drove the most direct route to Dobey's Motel. When the vehicle reached the Mobile Highway, on which Dobey's Motel is located, Corporal Reynolds requested a patrol unit to stop the vehicle. The vehicle was stopped at approximately 4:18 p.m., just short of Dobey's Motel. Corporal Davis asked respondent to step to the rear of her car, where he informed her [110 S.Ct. 2415] that she had been stopped because she was suspected of carrying cocaine in the vehicle. He asked if they could look for cocaine, and respondent said they could look. The officers found a locked brown attache case in the car and, upon request, respondent provided the combination to the lock. The officers found marijuana in the attache case, and placed respondent under arrest. During processing at the station, the officers found three milligrams of cocaine in respondent's purse.

Respondent was charged in Montgomery County court with possession of marijuana and possession of cocaine. The trial court denied respondent's motion to suppress, and she pleaded guilty to the charges, reserving the right to appeal

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the denial of her suppression motion. The Court of Criminal Appeals of Alabama held that the officers did not have the reasonable suspicion necessary under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), to justify the investigatory stop of respondent's car, and that the marijuana and cocaine were fruits of respondent's unconstitutional detention. The court concluded that respondent's motion to dismiss should have been granted, and reversed her conviction. 550 So.2d 1074 (1989). The Supreme Court of Alabama denied the State's petition for writ of certiorari, two justices dissenting. 550 So.2d 1081 (1989). Because of differing views in the state and federal courts over whether an anonymous tip may furnish reasonable suspicion for a stop, we granted the State's petition for certiorari, 493 U.S. 1042 (1990). We now reverse.

Adams v. Williams, 407 U.S. 143 (1972), sustained a Terry stop and...

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